The Almighty Divine Scroll

I love scrolls almost as much as I love potions. I can’t count how many times a scroll has saved the day for me as a player, or for my players when I’m a GM. “Hey, I’ve got this scroll of passwall here… do I have time to read it before the ceiling crushes us..?”

One thing that’s always puzzled me, and where I don’t really have a good answer for my players, is the difference between arcane and divine scrolls and the almost universal power of divine scrolls. Mechanically, everything’s fine, but I have always struggled with finding a rationale for it. I usually just wind up saying “well, that’s the way it works” and moving on. Perhaps someone could give me some useful suggestions?

scroll

The first thing is how a divine scroll doesn’t require Read Magic to understand. In that case… who can read it? My take is that only clerics can, but exactly why is harder to find a reasonable explanation for. Is there a secret language? Maybe, but how can it be common to each and every cleric of every faith? For that matter, how come your language skills do not influence this? Is it perhaps some sort of innate magic? It might be possible, but it just doesn’t feel right for the cleric class.

My next problem deals with the universality of these scrolls. You might find a scroll explicitly created by a follower of another deity, quite possibly the follower of your own patron deity’s mortal enemy. The scroll, however, is neutral… the prayers and symbols on it somehow follow some sort of generalized clerical magic and are untainted by whoever wrote them. It just doesn’t sit right with me… how can a scroll penned by an evil follower of the chaotic gods not be a foul thing?

Some fixes are of course easy – I could just impose a lot of restrictions on scrolls to suit my suggestions above – but I don’t want to do that! I still love scrolls, and I’d hate to take away from their usefulness. For now, I guess I will keep saying “because I said so”, but I’d love to get some good suggestions…

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